I have a problem with patience. When learning something new, I want to instantly become an expert. I don’t want to take things slow and gradually add new skills to my skillset. I’ve always been this way, and if someone insists that my approach may not be realistic, I become more stubborn and determined to take on the challenge.
So when I decided to learn to knit, my approach was no different.
- Knit a few swatches.
- Make two ugly scarves. Get bored.
- Knit a cowl for my Mom for Christmas and learn to cable knit.
- Make a hat that is too small for my head.
- Decide that I’m more than ready to make a sweater.
And this was not just any sweater. This was an epic shawl collared cardigan from a 1970s Sirdar pattern. It had everything a novice knitter should be thrilled with: stranded colorwork, three different colors, men’s sizing, seven pages of instructions, and outdated yarn terms, like “Sportswool.” Naturally, I was all in.
Why This Sweater?
Truthfully, when I started knitting I had this sweater in mind. If I were concerned about appearances, I would probably make up an elaborate tale about Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn, after all, wore a very similar sweater in 1962, and was famously photographed (pantsless) on the Santa Monica Beach.
Being a realistic and sensible person, I know I can’t pull off 1960s sex symbol. 1970s detective, however, maybe. The kind of cop that drives a fast car and is quick witted. A guy who fancies salami or pizza for breakfast, and wonders if peanut butter would pair nicely with caviar. A guy whose style of crime fighting has a heavy dose of gratuitous violence and a whole lotta snark. Yes, I wanted a Starsky sweater!
This Sirdar pattern is very similar to the sweater worn by none other than Sargeant Detective David Starsky, better known as one-half of the TV cop duo Starsky & Hutch. While watching the show for the first time in 2015-2016, I became enamored with the character, and the comedic brilliance of actor Paul Michael Glaser. Not everyone can pull off a heavy wool sweater with a vampiresque collar, but Starsky could.
Those who know me, know that in reality I’m the antithesis of Starsky. I’m one of the most non-violent, quiet, unassuming people you will ever meet, but something about that character grabbed me, and I wanted to make that sweater.
The History of Starky’s Sweater
The history of Starsky’s sweater is quite interesting, especially if you are a fan of the show. When Paul Michael Glaser was cast as Starsky, he insisted that he be comfortable while filming, and told the wardrobe department to let David Soul be the clothes horse. The sweater belonged to Paul. He purchased it on Alvarado Street in Los Angeles, and wore it to his audition. I’m not sure that wearing a heavy wool sweater in Los Angeles equates with comfortable, but it was frequently worn by Paul on the show, and was one of the iconic pieces of clothing most often associated with Starky. If you want to know more, Paul did a fascinating interview with the Archive of American Television, where he talks wardrobe and more.
Stubbornly, I Persisted to Knit and Unravel. . .
So I set out to make the sweater after purchasing a pattern download on Etsy. It was more challenging than I could have imagined. First, large sections were knitted, unraveled and knitted again. I completely misinterpreted the sizing. Sleeves had to be remade, added to, and unraveled again. A very accommodating husband was recruited to serve as a living clothes form. The collar was remade several times. The pattern was reread, and pieces were sewn together in a variety of ways. Finally, the collar was tucked, and rolled, and stitched (in desperation) so that the sweater could be worn for Halloween. No, the collar is not quite right, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the right way to do it.
In the end, after about ten months of work, lots of swearing, lots of coffee, and encouragement from fellow Starsky & Hutch fans on Tumblr, I finished my Starsky sweater. I wanted to give up many times, but I finished it in my own way, and I love it.
Yarns used: Northhampton by Valley Yarns in Natural, Dark Grey, and Medium Grey;
Needle size: 10 (US)